Home >Industry >Who will score big at IPL auctions?

In the recent One Day International (ODI) series between New Zealand and India (which New Zealand won 4-0, with one game tied), the scorecard at the bottom of the screen included the predictions by an engine called WASP .

During the first innings of the match, WASP would predict the expected value of the score at the end of the first innings. During the second innings, WASP would give the likelihood of the chasing team winning. WASP uses a dynamic programming based model (the inventors have been kind enough to put up the formula online).

Using an extension of this model, it is possible to quantify the contributions of different players in a game. It is also possible to dig deeper and look at the contributions of different players at different points in time in the game.

Ahead of Wednesday’s auction of Indian Premier League (IPL) players, we will use this model to analyse players’ performances in the last edition of the IPL.

Marquee players

The IPL player auction will happen in stages, with players divided into sets of eight. Within a set, however, the players will be auctioned at random, so as to not give any player or team an unfair advantage (On Tuesday, we had mentioned that it is advantageous for a player to come earlier in the auction).

Considering that most of the money will be spent on the first two sets, known as marquee players (we had mentioned that teams are likely to spend a total of 280 crore on the top 30 players, which includes 13 retained players), we will look at last year’s performances of players in these two sets. Using our proprietary evaluation system, for each game a player gets a score between minus 100 and plus 100, though it is extremely unlikely to find scores close to either extreme. A score of plus 100 means that a player single-handedly won a lost game for his team, while a score of minus 100 means that a player single-handedly lost a won game. A score of above 20 can be considered as a top-class performance while one below minus 20 can be considered atrocious. Of the 16 marquee players, three (George Bailey, Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen) did not play in the last edition of the IPL, while another (Brendon McCullum) batted only once.

The summary scores of the other 12 is given in the accompanying graphic (see table 1). By far the best player among these two sets who was not retained by his franchise is Mike Hussey. However, the challenge facing both him and Zaheer Khan, who is next in the given table, is that they are coming towards the end of their careers, so teams may not be willing to pay top dollar for them (after the auction, teams and players strike three-year contracts). Interestingly, four players among the top two sets had a negative impact in last year’s IPL.

Top performances in 2012

Next, we will look at the top performers of last year’s IPL using the same scoring system (see table 2). For this analysis, we have only considered players who have batted or bowled for at least five innings in last year’s IPL. Based on last year’s performances, the top five batsmen who are still in the auction are Mike Hussey, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Aditya Tare and Virender Sehwag. The top five bowlers still in the auction are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma and Murali Kartik. Interestingly, all are Indians.

Retained players

Next, let us look at the retained players and see how they affect the teams that have retained them. To this end, we will look at the performances of the retained players in last year’s IPL and see where they fit in to their teams. We will look at contributions in terms of batting and bowling in the three stages of the game (Powerplay is defined as overs 1-6, middle overs as 7-15 and death as overs 16-20) (see table 3). Based on the totals in table 3, we can infer about the key roles that teams are looking to fill in the auction. Chennai Super Kings, for example, will look to shore up their top order batting and bowling. Kings XI Punjab are strong only in later overs batting. Kolkata Knight Riders should invest in later overs batting and a bowling attack to support the excellent Sunil Narine. Mumbai Indians look weak on early and middle batting, while Rajasthan Royals will be on the lookout for a strong top order batsman. Royal Challengers Bangalore have a solid batting core but need to buy good bowlers, while the Sun Risers have plenty of business to do given they have retained only two players.

Right to match

For the first time in an IPL auction, teams have been given limited numbers of right to match cards which they can use to buy back former players they chose not to retain. This can make the auction interesting since they don’t need to actively bid for their former players, and can simply come in to match the winning bid, like cops turning up at the end of a movie. If a player’s home team has the option to match his price, it is likely to drive up his valuation. With all teams participating, competing teams know it when other teams have dropped out of the race. With an open right to match card, other teams will never know when the player’s home team will exercise the option of matching the price, and hence are likely to bid up the player’s price beyond a level at which at they would have normally stopped. In fact, it is possible we might see a bizarre situation where only one team continues bidding on a particular player, just to dissuade his home team from using the right to match card. Thus, if you are a player, you should hope that your home team has its right to match card when your name comes up for auction. Erstwhile players of Pune Warriors, which is no longer in the IPL and hence no longer in the auction, are likely to be disadvantaged by this right to match rule, since they are effectively orphaned (remember that the auction is a zero sum game as far as the players are concerned).

The 17 crore player

In our previous analysis, we mentioned that one player is likely to go for a sum close to 17 crore (extrapolating from the last auction), and that three players are likely to go for over 12.5 crore. Based on player performances from the previous year, can we guess who they will be? Going purely by our tables (see table 1) of last year’s performances, the most likely candidate to be Mr. 17 crore is Dinesh Karthik, formerly of Mumbai Indians. Apart from being among the better batsmen (based on last year) still left in the auction, he is young (28), Indian and keeps wicket. Thus, he can hope to go for a good price. The other candidate to go for a high price among those that played last year is Australia’s Aaron Finch. Also going for him is a great recent ODI series against England.

Players who didn’t play last season cannot be ruled out, too. Kevin Pietersen’s sacking by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) means he is available for the full season, and his performances in 2012 were pretty impressive. Brendon McCullum, fresh in Indian minds thanks to the Indian team currently playing in New Zealand, is also likely to go for a high sum.

Among bowlers, Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes exploits should see him profit in the auction, despite his performance in the last IPL not being particularly spectacular.

A pinch of salt

All the analysis above is based on performance of players in last year’s IPL. That, however, is not the only factor that will drive the auctions. There are several other factors such as recent form, age, top-of-mind recall (which might benefit New Zealanders such as Corey Anderson), brand value and performances in other formats that are likely to affect a player’s valuation. Also, the valuation of a player will be dynamic, and a function of the progress of the auction thus far. Hence, we will refrain from making any specific predictions.

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